Background: HIV counselling and testing (HCT) services can play an important role in HIV prevention by encouraging safe sexual behaviours and linking HIV-infected clients to antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, regular repeat testing by high-risk HIV-negative individuals is important for timely initiation of ART as part of the 'treatment as prevention' approach.
Aim: To investigate HCT use during a round of HIV serological surveillance in northwest Tanzania in 2010, and to explore rates of repeat testing between 2003 and 2010.
Methods: HCT services were provided during the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of serological surveillance in 2003-2004 (Sero-4), 2006-2007 (Sero-5) and 2010 (Sero-6). HCT services have also been available at a government-run health centre and at other clinics in the study area since 2005. Questionnaires administered during sero-surveys collected information on socio-demographic characteristics, sexual behaviour and reported previous use of HCT services.
Results: The proportion of participants using HCT increased from 9.4% at Sero-4 to 16.6% at Sero-5 and 25.5% at Sero-6. Among participants attending all three sero-survey rounds (n = 2,010), the proportions using HCT twice or more were low, with 11.1% using the HCT service offered at sero-surveys twice or more, and 25.3% having tested twice or more if reported use of HCT outside of sero-surveys was taken into account. In multivariable analyses, individuals testing HIV-positive were less likely to repeat test than individuals testing HIV-negative (aOR 0.17, 95% CI 0.006-0.52).
Discussion/conclusions: Although HCT service use increased over time, it was disappointing that the proportions ever testing and ever repeat-testing were not even larger, considering the increasing availability of HCT and ART in the study area. There was some evidence that HIV-negative people with higher risk sexual behaviours were most likely to repeat test, which was encouraging in terms of the potential to pick-up those at greatest risk of HIV-infection.